Monday, April 19, 2010


Always looking to try something new, this was another experimentation in the studio several weeks ago. While a sea-scape is nothing earth-shattering, the way this little 8x10 painting, “Coastal Rush” was completed was the difference. And it reminds me that expressive passages can lead to pleasing results, while maintaining a freshness that can be forgotten in larger, more methodical works.

The purpose of this painting was to see what the outcome would be without a planned approach or organized design. I normally wouldn’t do this nor recommend it, as I believe a good plan leads to a good painting. But occasionally I’ll find myself painting “stiff” or my design elements and passages will feel “forced”. When this happens, it can be refreshing to let go and try a very free process. Then, blending this in with my normal routine, can help me pull though the stiffness in future paintings.

To start, I decided to tone my canvas with Prussian Blue, a color I never use. I also toned it broadly with dark and light passages without trying to give it an overall uniformity. This toning gave the canvas a “feel” that I used as part of the interpretation of the scene. (In fact, the sky area is just my original toning). Next, I decided on a dark color for the shadow-side of the rocks and roughly painted those in, more on where I felt they should be placed rather than how they appeared in my photo reference. I grayed them a bit as they went back in space for depth. Then I painted the top “in light” color of the rocks where light would hit if it were coming from the top left of my scene. Again the placement was a response to the masses already created. Throughout this painting I kept my emphasis on loose and free brush-work. Never really trying to correct much, but simply responding to the shapes that were being formed.

The water was next. I used a combination of Prussian Blue, white and a touch of Viridian for the shadow areas of the water, painting them free and expressively. Then hit the lit foam areas with white and hints of color to give it some vividness. Lastly, I created the back horizon land mass – just a few quick brush strokes as a suggestion – which took all of 30 seconds. After a couple of edges were softened here and there in the distant rocks, the painting was finished. I wasn’t sure what I thought, so I decided to evaluate the next morning.

Upon review, I felt the scene came together and captured a sense of the rushing ocean. But more importantly, I enjoyed the way each brush stoke had a confidence to it, without being over-thought or overworked. I’ll try to remember to add areas like these in future paintings. Sometimes it’s better to let my brush talk, instead of me verbally explaining my intentions! Enjoy.